The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
27 “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Joseph recognized by his brothers, by Charles Thevenin, 1764-1838
It is good to forgive.
But it is best to forget.
Once upon a time two friends were walking through the desert. During some part of the journey they had and argument and one friend slapped the other on the cheek. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand: Today, my best friend slapped me on the cheek. They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning but the friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: Today, my best friend saved my life. The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone. Why?” The other friend replied, “When someone hurts us we should write it in the sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away, but when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”
There is an ancient phrase associated with the inhabitants of New York City and part of New Jersey, closest to it. It is spelled like this, “FUHGEDDABOUDIT.” This relates so well into Robert Browning’s poem, where he says, “Good to forgive, best to forget.” But people find it hard to forget. In the journal Psychology Today, there were two articles written by two separate authors, in the span of a year that were antagonists on this subject. The first one was titled, “The Problem with turning the other cheek.” The doctor wrote that forgiving those who persecute you is actually “immoral.” His argument? Your life is not less valuable than the one who you are trying to defend, nor is it right to turn the other cheek, whereby you are aiding and abetting the terrible behavior of the bully. In allowing ourselves to be abused, we role model victimization. We cause harm to ourselves and those we love when we suffer abuse. There is a lot of talk these days around being a victim. We need to be careful here. Sometimes the victim, given enough time for revenge, can become that bully. Eventually they need to learn that sometimes it is best to move past and to “FUHGEDDABOUDIT.”
The second article was titled, simply, “Can you Forgive?” The doctor who wrote that piece argues, “forgiveness is a powerful and affirmative part of our humanity.” He affirms the importance of making confession during the time of Lent, such as the season we begin next week with Ash Wednesday. He says that for the sake of healing, you must forgive, and do it often. Of course, this continual peeling back the band aid or feeling the roughness of the scar, doesn’t always help us to, ““FUHGEDDABOUDIT.”
Let’s now turn to a real life story, one that most of us know. It is from our first reading today and is about a young man who was slapped in the face by not one, but ten of his brothers. It is the story of Joseph, son of Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons, two of which were born by his wife Rachel: Joseph & Benjamin. They were the runts, coming at the end, whereas all the others were birthed by different women who were the maidservants and midwives of Jacob’s tribe. That was the practice in those days in order to survive in a wilderness.
Joseph would run circles around his other brothers, showing them up and often being a braggart, but in the purest sense. They despised him especially because he was Father’s favorite, who fashioned a coat of many colors to honor his younger son. Furious by this gift and constant display of favor, the brothers conspired to kill Jacob. They through him into a well until they could figure out how to do it. Maybe they didn’t have the guts to do it right away, but as they were arguing over it, a travelling caravan of traders came by, who they sold their brother into slavery. The story goes on about how he was sold again in Egypt whereby he was assigned the royal chambers of Pharoah’s wife. She tried to bed him and when he resisted she yelled, “rape.” He was thrown into prison once again and now we see he is wrestling with why bad things are happening and calls out to God. Apparently God’s Spirit visited him in prison, assuring him that his life would have greater purpose, to which it did as he became an amazing interpreter of dreams.
By this gift of prophecy, he was given charge of the granary; all the major food supply that made Egypt so rich. Predicting a famine, he made Egypt take good measure, press down, shake together and watch the levels run over right before the inevitable happened. Thousands came from wilderness areas from starvation, seeking food, and in that group came, who else? His family. All of those brothers, including the youngest Benjamin, but without the father, Jacob. Joseph goes on to hide his identity for a short time, then once revealed all bow down and ask for forgiveness. What does this man do to his brothers who sold him into bondage? He says, ““FUHGEDDABOUDIT.”
“What you intended for evil, God intended for good.” Many leave the story there, but something remained in Joseph. It was at the time he was able to go back and visit his father Jacob. Once he returned, Jacob blessed him and then he died. After his funeral, Joseph and all his brothers went to the well they through him in and there, he just looked down into it. Some would say that he took that pause to remind the brothers of their wrongdoing but actually he was praising God, allowing a place of darkness to humble him and lead him out into a better place for the good of his family. He moved past.
Jesus is telling us to do the same. In the Gospel according to St. Luke, the sixth chapter, most people are hearing a sermon about stewardship and giving more. “Your reward will be great” if you turn the other cheek. Give to the poor and needy and God will give to you. This is missing the point. Jesus is telling us about the power of forgiveness and that it is good to forgive, and best to forget. Love and forgiveness is the grain in which we are to store and to let flow out of us. This saying of Jesus, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.” Our general practice should be the following:
Avoid instant retaliation, returning insult for insult;
Avoid launching into defensive explanations;
Do not give the silent treatment, letting anger brood;
Consider those who have thrown you down and how they are your brother, your best friend, in whom you write in the sand the day they slapped you in the face; but be hopeful and wait for the day that you may save their life or they save yours. Then, write that down in stone for this is what we desire. Have faith that through prayer and forgiveness you will see the change in you and the change in them, for the good.
When that day comes, it is good to forgive,
But best to, ““FUHGEDDABOUDIT.”
 Robert Browning, poet.
 Alex Lickerman, M.D. “The problem with turning the other cheek,” Psychology Today, October 10, 2010.
 Mark Banschick, M.D. “Can you forgive?” Psychology Today, October 3, 2011.
 Genesis 45:3-15
 Luke 6:27-38